Rs 27 per day

Agrarian Crisis

Atanu Chakravarty

The 'emperor' proclaimed and promised to double the income of farmers. The 'maverick' Chief Minister of West Bengal went a bit ahead, and declared she had already increased the income of the farmers three-fold!

But, ironically, the National Statistical Office (NSO) published the latest Situational Assessment Survey (SAS) on September 10 giving a big slap to all these tall, false claims. This is the most comprehensive official survey on the economic conditions of farmers in India.

The report under mention revealed, an Indian farmer earned Rs 27 per day on average from cultivation which is quite lower than what he could have earned through MGNREGA round the year! This data itself exposes the grave crisis of Indian agriculture. Even as Modi and his honchos are propagating India's big strides ahead under Modi's rule which, according to them has reached to the zenith, the harsh reality is, after 75 years of Independence, Indian farmers earning have nose-dived to a nadir.

As per the estimates of SAS, there are 93.1 million agricultural households in rural India and almost half of India's rural population doesn’t even have the minimal economic stakes in agriculture. The overwhelming non-agricultural households, almost 99 per cent, possess less than one hectare of land and naturally the major source of income for almost half of these population is from casual employment. Self-employment in cultivation coupled with animal farming is the largest source of income for 71 per cent of the estimated 93.1 million agricultural households. SAS has further found that an average agricultural household earned a smaller share of its total income from cultivation, which is a meagre 38 percent than from wages (40 percent). During July 2012- June 2013 (the last SAS round) it was found that share of income from cultivation in total income was 48 per cent. This again declined to 38 per cent under the 2018-19 survey. During the same period, the share of farm income from wages alone rose from 32 percent to 40 per cent. The survey shows, this is the first instance when cultivation is not the biggest source of income for India's agricultural households.

India witnessed an unprecedented humanitarian crisis after the sudden and brutal lockdown and the sordid spectacle of millions of migrant workers losing their wages and livelihood, walking back to their villages despite all odds is still alive in our mind. It was proved that when urban India shut its door, employment opportunities evaporated during pandemic and lockdown, agriculture was the last straw for the sinking migrants, and only during this exceptional period, share of agricultural employment increased for the first time in India. Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) was the first official proof depicting this grave distress. While the share of employment in agriculture has been dwindling at fast pace, 2019-20 came out as an exception to this trend. Agricultural employment actually increased from 42.5 percent in 2018-19 to 45.6 per cent in 2019-20! Job losses in all the other sectors of economy in April-June 2020 period was compensated by agriculture, and was considered to be last resort of employment in India.

The tragic part of the story is, MGNREGA workers are considered to be the poorest of all, and wages under MGNREGA are slightly below par with unskilled wages in the open market. SAS shows that for all but 5 States, average income from cultivation per agricultural household is actually less than what MGNREGA work would pay in 365 days. So, the farmers are now the poorest of all, earn less than the MGNREGA workers.

Devinder Sharma has sarcastically commented, "income from cultivation is certainly less than the earnings from an average lactating cow on a per day basis, given the farm gate price of approximately Rs 30 per litre". (All pains no Gains)

SAS further revealed, more than half of India's agricultural households are indebted, with an average outstanding of Rs 74,121. While the average households debt reduced before 2013, it again leaped to 57 per cent from Rs 47,000 in 2013. Of late, Parliament was informed, by the end of March 2021, total outstanding farm loans totalled Rs 16.8 lakh crore, and Tamil Nadu is at the top of it. Mizoram witnessed an unprecedented increase of 70.9 per cent outstanding farm loans, followed by Assam and Tripura, both having BJP at the helm of affairs.

Minimum Wages of workers is still not determined. The floor level committee to fix this entire exercise has again being reconstituted for the third time. The income of farmers are crushing to an unimaginable low. The twin basic classes, who produce entire wealth of the nation are facing the worst crisis, are the biggest hit during Modi regime. And, the situation has thus paved to forge a fighting class unity against this fascistic regime.

Back to Home Page

Vol. 54, No. 20, Nov 14 - 20, 2021